Saturday, May 30, 2009

Half rainbows and settling in

These past few days have been pretty good. I set up Portuguese tutoring sessions for F. and me, found a grocery store that I am comfortable with, did some document translation (yes, I do work from time to time), and spent an evening on the beach listening to two free concerts just a block from each other. We never did get cable, but oh well. Hence the half rainbow.

Actually this morning is the second time that I've seen a half rainbow out over the ocean. It just reminds me of how blessed I am to be able to have such a view outside my window. Coming from urban and suburban Michigan, ocean views are, well, non-existent, and at my family's pay grade, lake and river views are something you get while vacationing. So it is indeed a privilege to stay in a place that overlooks the ocean. Know that I am settling in I am finally beginning to sit back and enjoy my locale.

Last night was particularly fun. I met up with an American colleague from JAPER (US-Brazil Joint Action Plan Civil Society Committee) and we hung out on the beach, listened to forro (like Brazilian country music...sort of), rock, and reggae, and talked about race relations in Brazil and the U.S. I realized how much I missed having a deep and engaging conversation with an adult. I need to do it more often. My son agrees. Once my colleague and I parted ways, F. and I continued to hang out. The reggae band was hot, and I was really getting into music. I told my son that his dad and I became a couple while playing in a reggae /Afro-pop band while in college. I can't believe he never heard of the Mau Maus (that was our name, do not take offense). We were a collection of Africans, Caribbeans, Asians, and N. Americans (me). I was a back up singer and dancer, known along with a South African woman as the I-2's (take off of the I-3's from Bob Marley's also is a type of immigration document too, isn't it? Just realized that....).Mau Mau back in the day

Anyway, listening to the band, which had a woman playing keyboard, btw, took me back. They sung in English and Portuguese, and the crowd was funky. Lots of American college students (cool ones, not rowdy, drunk ones) European tourists, Brazilian kids, other locals, and a number of families with kids (F. didn't stand out too much, even though his style of dress marks us as American...he will not let go of the crisp white gym shoes and the baggy clothes). We eventually left because F. needed a bathroom break (those port-a-potties are NOT the stuff) and then it started raining. It was funny watching dozens of partiers cram under vendor umbrellas and shop canopies. Everyone was so calm. I try to imagine this scene in the at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit during a festival. Not sure how it would play out. Oh was cool here. I look forward to a casual Saturday in the city. Going to do more transcribing, hit the mall for a few things, then maybe the beach....peace...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I have been wanting to blog for about a week now, but my Internet access has been sketchy, at best. F. and I made it to Salvador last Tuesday morning, and spent the first two days just getting acclimated. We arrived during one of the most rainy periods in a while, and if you have ever tried to battle rain coming off of an ocean, you know who is winning that battle. Needless to say my straight hairdo was one of the casualties of the rainstorm.

One of my umbrellas was another. It is so funny that you can see umbrella carcasses left abandoned on the streets. I, being the conscientious steward of the earth that I am (or at least try to be) traded mine in at a local store for a new one.

F. and I braved the rains for a number of days, then became impatient when we had to wait Wed., Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the folks to come to install Internet (evidently in Brazil, saying you will arrive at 11, then 1, then 5 really means that you will not come at all…and you thought CPT was bad…)Then on Saturday night I started feeling a little, unwell….by Sunday morning I was full fledged sick…either Traveler's Stomach or some type of food poisoning, I'm not sure which. I thought I would self medicate with some ginger root tea and watermelon,

but that did not work out to well. I will spare you the details, but it was not pretty. I think the culprit was some horrific pizza that I bought at the Bompreco (a chain owned by Walmart). From now on, I am going to be even more selective about what I buy and where I buy it from. I will bite the bullet and shop at Pereni, a more upscale store (think Whole Food's, Papa Joe's, or Trader Joe's). I also might start eating fish and seafood when I go out cause I am tired of eating cheese pastries (the only non-meat dish I can find besides beans and rice). F. was such a dear the whole time, helping me out the best he could, not complaining when all I could do was make some beans and rice for dinner. He even was a surrogate mom, insisting that I eat something even though I did not feel like it. I forced myself to eat five spoonfuls of food for his benefit…didn't stay down long though….TMI…I know.

Monday and today were just perfect. There is nothing like being on your sickbed that makes you appreciate being well. I was able to keep food down which allowed me to regain my strength. The sun was shining brilliantly and folks were flocking to the beach. F. and I took a stroll along the beach and then ate lunch at a restaurant.

While we were there, Felipe, the rental agent, called me to say that the Internet folk were at my building waiting for me. I told him I would come back and he responded "okay, in an hour?". I thought that was odd since I had told him I was maybe 15 minutes away. But I decided to take my time and we returned home about 30 minutes later and….no Internet guys. So I don't know if it is the Brazilian way (jethino) to say one thing that is….an exaggeration (I won't say lie) of the truth. A Brazilian guy I met recently said as much, but would like to think that when people are handling business they handle business. Perhaps I as

k for too much. But after being home for 15 minutes or so Felipe calls to say that the guys are downstairs and they shortly come up to begin installation. They got things together and even offered to hook up satellite tv. We will see if that happens....

We did see a little taste of home....

"Detroit Environmental Health"

Evidently, the name of the local pest control company is "Detroit". Hmph.

Hopefully, we can make it to the beach tomorrow. We have spent a little time t

I have an aversion to sand...not a good thing, since my son loves the beach and we are 4-8 minutes away from the beach, depending on the elevator.

View of one of Barra's beachs from our apartment. Beleza!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Living in Detroit

(pics here now)

I am only here for a few days before I head off to Brazil, but I feel like I have a bit of culture shock…in more ways than one. I packed up my apartment, put everything into storage….a 10 x 25 place that is pretty full (even with my pruning I still have a lot of ish… and turned in the keys. So now I have been driving around Detroit….south-eastern Michigan more specifically…as I spent Friday and Saturday in Ferndale, Madison Heights, Royal Oak, and other suburban cities. I want to reacclimate myself to this place that I will call home for the next year…but I feel so alien. Part of it is cause the area has changed a lot in four years. Not that I have not been back home on occasion, but visiting for 2-3 days once a month does not give you the flavor of an area. The "for sale" and "for rent" signs are rampant in the burbs, as are the empty storefronts. Even in tony places like Birmingham you see empty homes….empty strip malls in Royal Oak.

One interesting and cool thing that I noticed was in Oakland Mall. Growing up, Oakland Mall was one of "those" suburban malls where black folk weren't looked at too kindly. Over the years it got more comfortable to be there, and it was better than Northland which had been overrun by teenagers and gaudy, ghetto-fab shops (which I was all into during my younger years). I went to Oakland on Saturday to get my eyebrows arched and a pedicure (special treats for me with my doctoral student time and financial restrictions). There were Middle Eastern people (possibly Chaldean), Muslims, Indians, black folk, white folk, Latinos, Asians…j

ust an extremely diverse crowd. Now, for the most part, people were with their "own kind" but I did notice a black teenage girl handing with her ???Latino??? or Middle Eastern friend (she may have been bi-racial)….they looked like they were into the skater scene…tres cool! I saw two interracial couples….both black men, one with a white woman and one with a Asian woman. A few groups of teenagers were multiracial…and this one white g

uy with locks and some interesting get-up was walking around the mall barefoot….I wish I could of gotten a picture…evidently it is not against the rules to walk around barefoot cause he passed the security guard and the guard (a black man) did not even blink an eye…yes I was doing a lot of people watching at the mall today…I find malls to be excellent places to just sit and observe…

I felt a bit of role reversal on Saturday as well…many of my friends and family know that I am extremely pro-nappy, and have been since 1994. Well, on Friday I went to a salon and came out looking like this…

(sorry...pic later...just imagine me with straight hair...I look like a mix between Gabrielle Union and Queen Latifah)

***Here are the pics...see the resemblance....okay, maybe not***

Many folks who have only gotten to know me in the past few years may be shocked, but the reality is, I am not anti-straight hair…not 100%, and I have been known to straighten on occasion. I actually got into a bit of a heated discussion with my hairdresser about the merits of and problems with water and heat when it comes to black hair. I decided to slow my row since I WAS paying her to straighten my hair, so I couldn't quite argue that pressing combs were the debbil….so, I had my hair straightened, mainly so I could wear a stretched braid-out and to let my hair gradually kink back up….I prefer my hair bigger and curly; flat and straight doesn't feel like "me".

So I go run errands on Saturday, and it was interesting how people related to me! The girl that did my eyebrows tried to engage me in a convo about the high price of hair weaves…I had to tell her that I had no idea what she was talking about. She later let me know that I had the type of hair women are paying for…like baby doll hair, she said…. I think I did say thank you in response to all of the complements she gave me, but I did feel a bit uneasy (I try, as a rule, to NOT say thank you to statements like, oh your hair is so long, curly, nice texture, etc….but WILL say thank you to statements like…your hair is pretty….the personal is so political when it comes to black hair)

As I left the mall I crossed paths with this sister with long, semi-manicured locks…I usually am able to catch a fellow nappies' eye, but she averted her glance….

Later I sat in a restaurant near two older black women. One was a natural (small fro) and another had this short curly thing going on (not sure if it was natural or natural-esque). I attempted to catch their eyes and smile, but they, too, did not look my way. Now, I usually smile at black folk, particularly black women (I smile at other folks too, but my black liberation days have conditioned me to smile at sistern and brethern). I really felt as though they were shunning me cause I was not "one of them". Now, of course, I have no idea what they were thinking or not thinking regarding me, but I know that hair gives people impressions of you. I am used to my hair saying certain things about me, whether or not they are true. I kind of like the image that people have of me…the earthy, intellectual, conscious. I don't care for people classifying me as militant or racially intolerant (most people in real life know that is SOOOO far from the truth). I like the black aesthetic and I like the culture that I come from and the global African diasporan culture. Wearing my hair straight has been a culture shock for me….first, I do like it…somewhat. Second, I feel really guilty for liking it. Third, I don't like the way I felt alienated from sistas simply because of my hair. Fourth, I wonder if women who wear their hair straight feel alienated when around natural sistas? Now I know the answer to that; many do, cause many of US (natural sistas) do have preconceived notions of women who straighten their hair. This hair thing is deep and I am sure it will be revisted later, since hair is a mini-obsession of mine. Its late though, and I need to get up early so I can go to the Detroit Flower Show!!! Will blog later...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

One week left, on being ABD, and a 12 year veteran...

Twelve Years
Well, maybe more like 10 or 11 years....this is my 10th Mother's Day as an actual mother! I can't believe it sometimes how fast time flies...I mean, while it doesn't seem like just yesterday that I was bringing F. home, it also doesn't seem like I should really be the mom of an 11 year 6 or so years he will be off to college and I will be an empty nester (maybe). But in the interim, I have the most challenging years ahead....the teenage years! I am somewhat looking forward to it...I already enjoy the fact that I can now talk to him about social issues, religion, and life in general in a way that I couldn't years before (well, I did, but I am not sure he understood everything at 8.....not sure he understands it all now....or if I even do...). A little part of me is even considering a small run at a boarding school (didn't Barack go to boarding school for a bit?...maybe not, but still...). I want to give him some really unique experiences...the most unique (for a young African American urban male of a single mom) is the opportunity to live HERE for 3 months......

Barra area of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

Which leads me to....

One Week Left

So right now I am packing things up for storage and packing our suitcases to leave. I have vowed that we will each get one suitcase for clothes, we will have one suitcase for household necessities, like my hair products, my skin care products, my yoga know, necessities like that. One suitcase will be for my research stuff (since I am supposed to be doing work down there) and then backpacks and a carry on I am writing this I am thinking that maybe we will not need backpacks AND carry ons....if we pack right. So I feel that I am on target for getting us set by Wednesday when the movers come (I tried to solicit help from all the *ahem* men I no avail....guess I should of played nice with the daddy dear offered to chip in for movers (I wonder if the fact that, at my old age, I am still a daddy's girl is one of the reasons why I'm still single). So my home looks like this now...

In the midst of it all, I still need to finish up grading and stuff for my class, write a couple of letters of recommendation, and file some paperwork, cause as of May 7th, I am.....

ABD!!!! (All But Dissertation)
I am only going to allow myself to celebrate that for about a week or so more, cause it is not a place to get stuck at, but, darn it, its been four years in the making! The process has been slow, but steady, with no major bumps in the road, so for that I am greatful. Now I have to really forge ahead and not get sidetracked in Brazil or once I return home to Detroit. It'll be different doing my work away from campus, but I am hoping that the change of scenery will do F. and I both some good. I intend to work really hard M-F and then have a social life on the weekends. I am not planning on running the streets all the time, but I just want some balance in my life, balance that has been missing these last four years. Again, university had been real good to me, but it is just time to go home and finish. The goal is one year from now!!!! In the meantime, I've got a lot to keep me busy...back to work.....